While overall confidence in senior leadership is on the rise, employers still have room for expanding leadership development programs. One expert advises on aligning the future needs from leadership with the day-to-day activities now.

According to a recent Towers Watson Global Workforce Study, 55% of all U.S. employees surveyed said they have trust and confidence in their senior leaders – a consistent increase from 49% in 2012 and 47% in 2010.

However, employee confidence in the further development of future leaders still lags – adding doubt to the ability of employers maintaining a culture needed to continue to deliver on long-term strategic priorities, Towers Watson says. “This is one of the lowest scores respondents gave when asked to rate the job their leaders are doing.”

“Given the complexities of today’s changing global economy, the need for strong and effective leaders has never been greater,” said Marie Holmstrom, director of talent management and organization alignment at Towers Watson.

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Rather than just sending them to a class, career development for leaders requires a real work experience to challenge them, to test them and to try a new way of doing things, Holmstrom says. “Leaders can get stuck in thinking that the way they’ve done something in the past, because they been successful, is the way it should always be done.”

Past success doesn’t always equate to future success, she says. Holmstrom advises current leaders to include new behaviors in their style while interacting with trusted advisors, and seeking immediate feedback on the effectiveness of the new measures.

“Only then can a leader truly internalize what they learn in the classroom, what they hear from feedback, what they see in other great leaders and put in to action for their own leadership impact,” she says.

Other findings from the survey employees ranked employers highly on include 80% for promoting a positive image of the company to the outside world as well as a 3-way tie of 68% for:

  • Displaying an appropriate sense of urgency in accomplishing important business goals.
  • Being clear and consistent about company priorities for driving business success.
  • Understanding factors that lead to success.

Some other areas of improvement the survey points out include flexibility in a leader’s approach to new situations, more awareness on how actions impact the thoughts and emotions of other workers, and better inspiration.
“While we are pleased to see that more employees trust and feel confident in their leaders, and that many give high marks on certain leadership qualities, it’s disappointing many see their leaders as falling short, especially in their overall effectiveness,” Holmstrom adds.

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